Restaurant of the Future? Service With an Impersonal Touch

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Rufus Sewell in Dark City

Claire Cain Miller had lunch in San Francisco in a modern retake on the automats of old, where there are few people and no counter:

There’s a new quinoa restaurant in San Francisco — yes, quinoa restaurants are a thing in San Francisco, so that’s not what’s noteworthy. At this restaurant, customers order, pay and receive their food and never interact with a person.

The restaurant, Eatsa, the first outlet in a company with national ambitions, is almost fully automated. There are no waiters or even an order taker behind a counter. There is no counter. There are unseen people helping to prepare the food, but there are plans to fully automate that process, too, if it can be done less expensively than employing people.

For optimists, it’s a way to make restaurant-going more efficient and less expensive. For pessimists, it’s the latest example of how machines are stealing people’s jobs. Either way, it’s like heaven for misanthropes, or those who are in too much of a hurry to chat with a server.

“I would call it different than a restaurant,” said David Friedberg, a software entrepreneur who founded Eatsa. “It’s more like a food delivery system.”

In San Francisco, if they could deliver food via iPhone, they would. This is just as close as you can get to that disembodied experience, and the economics sidestep the question of a living wage for the non-existent servers. And next, the cooks will be replaced by spatula-wielding robots.

Restaurant of the Future? Service With an Impersonal Touch

Written by

Founder, Work Futures. Editor, GigaOm. My obsession is the ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

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